As bookworms, we are surrounded by fictional heroes. Our protagonists are also known as the ‘heroes’ of a story. Particularly in the adventurous genres of fiction such as fantasy and sci-fi. But what is it that makes these characters heroes? Are they perfect and honourable and good? Are they the flawless and powerful beings we see in superhero movies? Or is there more to it than that? I believe that there is.
Recently, I watched Batman Vs. Superman. The movie was by no means great or impactful – in fact, I was actually quite confused and conflicted – but it did, by the end of it, make me think of heroes and what actually defines one. Why did the movie make me think this? Because despite its poor cohesiveness in telling an actual story that made sense (and this is debatable as I could’ve just been really out of it when I was watching it), it challenged the representation of a hero.
This takes me back to Jasper Jones, a book I read back in high school (WHICH BY THE WAY WAS FANTASTIC). In this novel, the main character Charlie, and his best friend Jeffrey Lu, were having an argument over who was the better superhero – superman or batman. I specifically remember Jeffrey saying that batman was the better superhero because he didn’t need any special abilities to defeat the bad guys. He was an ordinary human with the capacity to be this vigilante hero.
SO, WHAT IS IT THAT TRULY DEFINES A HERO?
Is it their power and abilities?
I kind of agree with Jeffrey Lu on this one. Power doesn’t equate to being a hero. In fact, power has the ability to corrupt. Just because you have the power to crush concrete into dust with your bare hands, or be able to read the minds of everyone around you, or be able to shapeshift (I really only added that because I WISH I COULD SHAPESHIFT. AGH.), it does not make you a hero. Power is dangerous and a big responsibility. In Batman Vs. Superman, this idea is explored. For a superhero movie, it takes a pretty dark tone and one reason for this is because they were exploring the ways in which power can affect those who possess it (well done for that, director!).
The people loved superman. Why? Because he could fly, he had super strength and could do things for people in which no mortal could – like saving them from getting squashed by trucks and bits of falling apart buildings or something. Batman was popular for his deeds in stopping the cities criminals and bad guys, the people who the police had not got around to (for whatever reason). In the movie, this is being twisted. Beginning with superman – as the public begins to turn a negative attitude on him, he turns bitter, looking for that fame and praise he once got for being the ‘hero’ that he was. It turned him to try to defame batman and try to put this ‘hero’ in the same position he was in. And this, the power struggle begins.
Ever heard the term: power-hungry? In the movie, this is what batman and superman were. They were power-hungry, looking to dominate one another to become the ultimate superhero, the one who the public praise for their deeds. Were they using their power for good? Heck no. They were using it to destroy one another, causing chaos in the city in the process. Power leads to fame and fame leads to an ego – not what you want in a superhero, really. At least, in my opinion.
Are heroes defined by their goodness?
When you think of a hero, generally you think of someone who is fighting for the good of the people. We associate heroes such as batman and superman as heroes because they fight the bad guys. Do we define a hero as someone who is completely good, righteous and pure? The movie, in a sense, challenged this: superman is this handsome, strong and powerful guy who is seemingly indestructible (besides his teensy tiny weakness to a glowing green stone). The people began to not admire him for this, but began to instead fear and detest him.
This leads me back to the debate of who is the better superhero: batman or superman? Once again, I refer to Jeffrey Lu and his excellent point that be made about batman. The thing is, I believe a hero is not defined by his perfectness or goodness. No one can be all good – just think back to books: we criticise characters who are written without flaws. It’s unrealistic. NO ONE is flawless. It’s our flaws that make us who we are. We make mistakes and we stuff up sometimes, but we get back up and we do what we believe is right. This is personally what I love in my fictional heroes. Someone who is flawed, definitely not perfect and has their weaknesses, but still stands strong in what they believe in. And in a way, Batman Vs. Superman again, explores this idea. Superman (or Clark Kent, I should say) goes back to his mother because people are criticising him (as superman, duh). His mother tells him: “You don’t owe them a thing – you don’t owe the world a single thing. Just do what you believe is right.” (or something along those lines… don’t quote me, my memory is horrible and this is the best I could do!)